Fun in the Water: Diving to Rafting, Snohomish County, Washington

Washington State is beautiful on the ground--snow-capped volcanoes, fir-tipped islands, wildflower meadows, rolling wheat fields--but it truly shines when you combine all that with rushing water. Here are two fun ways to get wet in Snohomish County, just north of Seattle, this summer. To drill down on these adventures, check out the Snohomish County Visitors Bureau. 

1. Scuba diving in Edmonds, Washington (home to famous world traveler, Rick Steves). See the ferry below? For years, I rode it from Edmonds to  the Kitsap Peninsula, and then drove west until I hit Washington's wild Pacific Ocean beaches. But, look what I was missing right by the ferry dock. These divers are about to plunge into the bountiful, 27-acre Edmonds UnderWater Park, the most popular of the Washington's 10 underwater parks. 

Scuba dive down to the the nature trails and you'll see sunken vessels and "enormous lingcod, cabezons, spotted ratfish, various greenlings and rockfish, seaperch, gobys, sculpins, flounders, sole, eelpouts, Dungeness, red rock, kelp and hermit crabs, horse clams, geoducks, scallops, heart cockles, moon snail, giant pacific & red octopus, sea cucumbers, and numerous species of anemones, sea stars, urchin, nudibranchs, shrimp and seaweed."

2. Rafting.  I've rafted/kayaked all over the world, last year in Chile, but have barely scraped the surface in Washington State. Who knew the liftoff town of Index, was only an hour's drive from my Seattle home? This summer I rafted the Skykomish River with AdventureConnect and the Outdoor Adventures Center, a half-day, nine-mile shoot through the rapids, ending in a hot tub and steak feast in the company's Index headquarters.

The water was so warm that we got to jump out of our rafts at one point and swim around (albeit in neoprene suits), a rarity in these parts. I discovered that you can also snorkel with spawning salmon in the Skykomish later in the year.

Outdoor Adventures has two other adventures on my bucket list: 1. saltwater kayaking near Lopez Island. 2. Rafting the Sauk River, up in the North Cascades. Also try one of my favorite adventures: raft the Skagit River during eagle season to see the nesting birds. There's lots more water in Snohomish County. See you in Index (below).

Photo credits: Top photos, Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. Bottom photo: Outdoor Adventures. Index: Candace Dempsey 
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Val D'Orica: High on Tuscany

I came to Italy's Val D' Orica for the first time with my son, Jacob, to ride horses--only to learn that the horses were too spirited for mere amateurs to ride. Since we'd signed on for a week, we had to learn how to relax. The longer we stayed in this rarified air, enjoying this spartan beauty, the easier it became. No wonder it's a UNESCO World Heritage site and a summer playground for rich people from Rome:

"Gently-rolling hills covered in the dense vegetation of vineyards, olive groves, cypresses, beech and chestnut trees alternate with Medieval habitations, rural villas and castles boasting impervious towers – all of which is diffused in a tranquilly-isolated nature. This is the scenario that is laid out before the eyes of the visitor to Val d’Orcia – just as evocative in real life as it is when depicted by the Sienese Masters." 
A photo posted by Landscapes | Travel | Animals (@naturerad) on
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Starry Starry Arches National Park

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Bluest Skies Ever: Palouse, Washington

Thunderstorm building over the Palouse, Washington State. I went to my niece's high school graduation in Rosalia. She was valedictorian and is a wonderful, beautiful girl who has already completed two years of college thanks to the Running Start program. We've had such fun watching her and sister grow up--and spend all their summers at the lake in Northern Idaho, just as we did. Both grandmas died within the past year and were much missed. Their spirits seem to hang over this place. We lived here for a few years when I was a little girl and I've always loved the high, blue skies. 
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Latest On Brock Turner Rape Case

Millions of people around the world have been following the Brock Turner, Stanford University, rape case, which has sparked a much-needed discussion on campus sexual assaults. I'm linking to the Palo Alto Weekly, which has done a great job. Click to see the latest stories, including a letter from a disgruntled juror angry over Brock's 6-month jail sentence. Convicted of 3 felony assault charges, star swimming athlete Brock could've gotten 14 years. The juror were unanimous and are furious at the judge who gave him only 6 months. He will probably serve only 3.
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Lightning In Slow Motion

I love the lightning storms that sweep the far western United States, where I've lived nearly all my life.  I couldn't really "see" lightning. It all happened too fast. Check it out in slo-mo, thanks to the magic of NPR.
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If You Wrote Game of Thrones

I saw George R. R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones books, in Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, Washington. "I'm a slow writer," said the Santa Fe resident. Check out this cartoon, "The Sad Adventures of sad George R.R Martin."

A photo posted by Mashable Watercooler (@watercooler) on

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